Rural preceptorships give nursing students a range of clinical experiences

A rural placement can be the opportunity of a lifetime to find what you really love in the profession.

24 February 2023

In their final year, undergraduate nursing students complete a clinical placement alongside a preceptor who supervises them, giving them a chance to put into action the clinical skills they’ve learned.

For some students, a rural placement can be the opportunity of a lifetime to find an area of nursing they’re passionate about.

When a student takes on a rural preceptorship, they usually aren’t restricted by a single hospital ward’s specialty the way they might be in the city. Moving between different wards and floors gives students a broad range of experiences in nursing. 

“I knew I wanted to take advantage of every opportunity I could while in nursing school. It ended up being such an engaging placement, and I definitely got to practise more skills when compared to my classmates who stayed in the city,” says Camille Gaida, a student in the nursing after-degree program who completed her preceptorship in Hinton.

“In the hospital, I worked in the emergency department, operating, endoscopy, dialysis, labour and delivery, and the day clinical area. At the community health centre, I got to experience home care, the baby clinic, healthy beginnings and routine immunizations. We also had the opportunity to take part in certification training including a dysphagia screening tool certification and nonviolent crisis intervention training.”

Like many nurses who take on rural placements, Gaida says her favourite part of the program was working on a team with other health-care professionals.

“They went above and beyond to make myself and my classmates feel right at home and like part of the team. They never hesitated to take an opportunity to teach us new skills. The patients were also exceedingly kind and patient with us as well. I think this will be the part I miss about rural nursing the most.”

Justin Duong-Wong, who completed his preceptorship in Edson, had always been interested in what the rural nursing experience would be like.

“I worked in the Edson Hospital acute care unit, which also had two maternity beds, so I was able to also provide maternal care for a few patients. I also worked in the emergency department a lot, which definitely was a unique experience handling rural emergencies. And I had some shifts in the operating room doing peri-operative care,” says Duong-Wong.

“My favourite part was driving to the mountains on days off where I could spend the day doing what I love the most: enjoying the views and mountain air.”

A rural preceptorship lets students see both rural life and what nursing is like in different parts of Alberta. Students can immerse themselves in the small-town sense of community and exploring rural Alberta can be an adventure.  

And with a shortage of rural health professionals, experiencing rural practice and engaging with a rural community entices many students to work in that community after graduation.

“Definitely try it! It certainly had a steep learning curve, but it was great. I'd recommend it because it's such a different environment and I believe it helped me more than a preceptorship in the city might have,” says Duong-Wong.

“My advice is to keep an open mind. The rural nurse really does it all! It was really exciting being a part of multiple units and getting to practise different skills every day. It’s also a great way to learn to work on a multidisciplinary team,” says Gaida.


The Faculty of Nursing Collaborative Program is offered in Red Deer, Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie.  For more information, please visit the Collaborative Program webpage.